The need to improve animal welfare and reduce chemical residues to maintain the competitive position of our sheep products is unquestionable. However sheep producers perceive that the required actions are in conflict with production, so there have been few recent changes which allay consumer concerns. This paper discusses possibilities for producing more attractive products without substantial reductions in production or increases in costs. It identifies gene pools that should be exploited to develop a polled sheep with a short tail, that is devoid of wool on the head, legs, belly and breech. It reviews evidence that shows such animals require less handling and chemical treatment, and produce more lambs. It is proposed that these traits be accumulated into "Ethically Improved Sheep". The concept of ethically improved sheep is not presented as a prescribed combination of breeds. There are a number of breed sources of each trait, and other traits should be introduced as they become available or important in the future. This would permanently reduce the need for husbandry practices that emulate the same effects, thus reducing input costs, pre-empting any bans and forestalling any trade barriers based on current husbandry practices.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 57, , 84-87, 1997
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